Are you planning for your dream? Making a plan is an exciting step towards your goals. It allows you to think about your future, what you hope to accomplish, and all the incredible things you want to do along the way! While these exciting steps are all important to think about, it is equally important to consider the obstacles you will face throughout your journey.
Everyone experiences obstacles and setbacks, and every person is affected by them differently. As I wrote in Chapter 3 of my book, Dream Big!: How to Reach For Your Stars, “Of course, it’s impossible to predict all the obstacles that might come along—life is unpredictable! It’s completely okay (and normal!) to run into roadblocks and challenges while pursuing your goals that you didn’t anticipate and that you’re not prepared for.” While you can’t anticipate everything, acknowledging that challenges will occur will prevent you from getting discouraged and can make it easier to overcome them in the future. Keep reading to learn more about how obstacles disproportionately affect people, and how you can overcome them today!
Each one of us is shaped by our experiences. The unique situations we face affect how we see the world, and everyone has a different perspective. The same holds true for the obstacles we face. Everyone deals with setbacks, but because no two people are the same, each person can have distinct setbacks and be affected by them differently. It is only after we take our differences into consideration that we can truly help everyone overcome their obstacles and fulfill their dreams!
What Limits People From Pursuing Their Dreams?
Unfortunately, in our society, there are many factors that limit people from pursuing their dreams. Many are identity-based, like race, gender identity, and sexuality, while others are more circumstantial, like family and home life, location, and socioeconomic status. We may not always realize it, but these factors play a significant role in the opportunities we are given, and they also affect some people more than others.
Take this example: imagine you are an aspiring astronaut, and you’re dreaming of going to Space Camp. If you live in Alabama, you’re in luck! Space Camp is located in Huntsville, near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center; you won’t have to worry much about how location affects your dream. However, if you live in a different state, or on the other side of the country, it’s a different story. In this case, your dream wouldn’t be as accessible; you would have to consider transportation and housing fees if you wanted to attend space camp.
In addition, many disparities reflect social issues and have numbers to back them up. For example, in STEM fields, research has found that gender, race and ethnicity can affect how much a person gets paid. Studies show that, on average, for every dollar a man makes, a woman earns 86 cents. When you factor in race and ethnicity, the average Black woman makes approximately 65% of a white man’s salary, and the average Hispanic woman earns about 58%.
This all goes to show that even if something may be out of your control, such as your ethnicity or gender, it can still impact you as you pursue your dreams. This is especially true when thinking about biases and how they affect our livelihoods.
The Effect of Biases
Biases are defined as preferences for or against someone based on preconceived notions of them. We see them every day in instances of racism and misogyny (just like the salary example above), and they can be incredibly damaging to minority groups.
If an employer is biased against someone based on an aspect of their identity, the employer may feel that that person is unfit for their job – even if their bias is incorrect! This limits the opportunities that person has. When facing a lack of opportunities, your dreams get thrown a curveball – one that may require a new plan to recover from.
Everyone has biases to some extent, and you may not even realize when you are acting on them! This makes it extra important that we work to recognize if we are judging someone based on things we have no evidence of. When you catch yourself making these assumptions, ask yourself: Why are you thinking that way? What is reinforcing those ideas? What do you actually know about the person?
Biases are a huge factor people face on their journey to achieve their dreams. By noticing and working to eradicate them, we are not only making dreams more accessible, but we’re also making our communities stronger!
The obstacles you face don’t have to stop you from reaching success! And remember, you can’t control how other people respond to your dreams, but you can control what you’re willing to do to achieve them! With an understanding of how obstacles affect dreams, you can begin to implement the right habits and practices to overcome them. Throughout my journey, I’ve found that there are a few things that help me deal with obstacles as they arise, and I hope they can do the same for you.
Set Realistic Standards
It is important to remember that perfection is unattainable! Nobody is perfect, and everyone faces obstacles and gets knocked down at times. However, what matters most is how you get back up. To do this, make sure you give yourself enough time and preparation for your goals!
Oftentimes, we get knocked down because we rush into things without a plan. It’s understandable – you want to accomplish your dreams as soon as possible – but some dreams take time. Eight-year-old me wanted to be an astronaut right then and there, but I knew I had to wait until I was older before I’d be able to launch; there were many milestones I needed to accomplish first. That’s why, early on, I built a plan to help me navigate all the requirements and make sure I fulfilled them all as soon as I was able. I got my bachelor’s degree, earned my pilot’s license and scuba certification, and studied Russian. Today, I’m still using that same plan and am currently conducting immunology research at Harvard Medical School’s Jackson Lab!
This goes to show that by setting these realistic standards, you are giving yourself the time and preparation you need, and that will keep you from getting discouraged throughout your journey!
Don’t Let Your Circumstances Weigh You Down
The circumstances you face don’t have to define your dreams! With steadfast dedication and passion, you can overcome any obstacles thrown your way and continue to reach for your stars.
Doing so isn’t always easy, which is why I often like to sit down and write out why my dream is important to me. I remind myself of what I’m working towards and how the impact of my dream is much larger than myself. Keeping the greater good of what I’m doing in mind is re-energizing whenever I feel weighed down. In addition, when I remind myself of my role models and others who were able to overcome their circumstances, it drives me to do the same!
If you’re reflecting on the value of your dream, ask yourself these questions. Why do you want to accomplish this dream? Who or what is your inspiration? How will your dream affect your community? These questions will serve as a guiding hand throughout your journey, and they’ll help you focus on your goals rather than your obstacles!
Build a Community of Support
You don’t have to deal with obstacles alone! Surround yourself with people who care for you and want you to succeed. They will be there to motivate you, offer support, and help you to overcome any challenges you face.
Your support system can come from school, work, extracurriculars, or even social media! Wherever you find your cheerleaders, it’s important that among them, there are positive role models for you to look up to. Having a role model who was able to overcome obstacles and reach success is sure to inspire you to do the same! Here are some of my role models who overcame challenges to do great things:
- Stephen Hawking: Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in his 20s, but he never let this disease hold him back! Over the next fifty years, he reached worldwide scientific success, revolutionizing how we understand the world and making groundbreaking discoveries.
- Oprah Winfrey: Oprah Winfrey is no stranger to adversity. Born into poverty, Winfrey began facing hardships at an early age, and even as she progressed in her career, she continued to face discrimination because of her gender and race. Nonetheless, she never let this hold her back, and today, she is a world-renowned talk show host, author, producer, and actress.
- Bethany Hamilton: Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer who, in 2003, lost her left arm in a shark attack while surfing. Despite this, she was determined to keep surfing and doing what she loves. She retaught herself how to surf with only one arm and continued to compete in international competitions.
Practice Self Care
One of the most important habits you can implement is practicing self-care. It can give you the strength and energy you need to overcome obstacles and stay motivated. With a healthy mindset, you’ll be able to persevere through setbacks and remain focused on your dream no matter the challenges thrown your way!
Self-care can be anything you want it to be! For me, it’s setting some time aside each day to get outside. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or setback, I hop on my bike or go for a run. The fresh air is re-energizing, and by taking a step back, I am able to think about the obstacle at hand with a clearer, calmer perspective. This makes it much easier to deal with the situation and stay on track towards reaching my goals!
You Can Make the Impossible, Possible!
Throughout your journey, obstacles are inevitable, but they don’t have to hold you back! You deserve your seat at the table, and you are capable of anything you set your mind to. By acknowledging obstacles as they arise, it’ll be that much easier to overcome them, and with the right habits, you’ll be undeterred on your journey towards your dream!
If you want to learn more about overcoming obstacles and setting beneficial habits, be sure to check out my book, Dream Big!: How to Reach For Your Stars. In it, I share my tips for getting back up when you’ve been knocked down, talk about the importance of practicing self-care, and more to guide you on your journey towards your dreams. With anecdotes, advice, and interactive activities, Dream Big! will help you fulfill your dreams and make the impossible possible!